Report by Kailas athlete, Marcos Costa
During the month of October I had the opportunity to go climbing in and around Tokyo. Even though I have lived in Tokyo in the past I have not gone climbing in the famous areas around Tokyo. I was definitely eager to see what the climbing in this mega metropolis was like.
The sign says “Here is the Yosemite of Japan!"
Upon doing my research I found the best places to climb around Tokyo are:
Ogawayama- the hub of Japan’s climbing scene, is known for bouldering, but has sport, trad, and multi-pitch lines too. You’ll find it 120 miles west of Tokyo, in a valley littered with granite faces and blocks. It is considered “to be the “Yosemite of the east” and its where a lot of hard trad lines are located.
Mizugaki- a less popular area, offers similar but arguably superior climbing just north of Ogawayama in the neighboring prefecture. It is considered one of Japan’s premier bouldering locations because of the quality and concentration of world-class problems.With hundreds of developed boulders and more to be discovered, the grade range goes from V0 to V15, and the sculpted granite offers a technical style. Slopey holds and low-angle rock demand thoughtful movement, the use of small feet, and commitment to rounded top outs.
Mitake- has more high-quality bouldering and can be reached in two hours from Tokyo via train.
A boulder in the Ome River in Mitake
The prime season for climbing in Japan is in the Fall (October through early December) or spring (March through May). Autumn is actually supposed to be the best season for both climbing and food. So it seems like October was going to be perfect!!
However, things sometimes don't really go as planned. Life has its way to throw surprises at us and all we can do is to adapt. The month I was there Japan had no less than 7 storms. According to JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and the Japan Meteorological Agency these storms were rated from Tropical Depressions to Super Typhoons. The strongest of the storms being the Super Typhoon named Lan. With so much rain my plans to stay in the mountains and climb fell to pieces.
On the bright side Tokyo is home to a lot of climbing gyms, apparently, there are over 50 climbing gyms in the city. So while the rain drenched the whole of Japan, I was able to stay in shape and try some of Tokyo’s climbing gyms. Even though this was supposed to be a rock climbing/bouldering trip it felt somewhat like an expedition to Patagonia where I was constantly checking the weather and waiting for a weather window to come by so I could get out and try the amazing granite.
I met a friend who was kind enough to show me around the climbs in Ogawayama. So when the first good weather window rolled around, we made sure to make the most of it. While there we went sport climbing, trad climbing, bouldering, made delicious meals and to top it all off rest day at the hot spring.
Flashing the classic "Captain Ahab" V5/6 Working on "Ana senc
Holding the swing on “Victor lunge” V8
"Egoist" V7 in Mitake
Warm up problem on the river side
When the second good weather window rolled around I went to check out the boulders at the Mitake area. I heard this was the most likely to dry and since it had been raining nonstop it was the best bet for the 2 days of good weather. A “short" hour and a half train ride and 30 min walk from Tokyo was the perfect location to go and in case the rain came back early it would be easy to go back to the comfort of the climbing gyms back in the city.
As it rained most of the month of October I spent A LOT of time climbing in the gyms in Tokyo. One thing I realized about climbing indoors in Tokyo is that it is extremely expensive, especially if it's your first time at a particular gym since you have to pay a registration fee along with the day pass. At one point I remember paying about 4500 yen to climb. That’s 270RMB for a day of climbing!!!! If you are climbing 4 days/week it can get quite expensive. Though expensive the gyms are extremely well kept. They are clean, the boulder problems are well set and the vibe is very energetic. There are tons of hard climbers in Japan and climbing with them is a great way to get strong.
Creative boulder problem sequence in one of the hundreds of gyms in Tokyo.
Though I didn't get to climb and see as much as I had planned I think the climbing in Japan is really good. The rock quality is superb, the local community is supportive and the food is incredible. I am definitely going to go back at some point, but I do hope for more sunshine next time around.